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Obama’s plan for long-term jobless: A teaspoon to bail out the ocean

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Source: WSWS

The heavily publicized meeting between President Obama and several hundred corporate CEOs and other business leaders will do little or nothing to alleviate long-term unemployment. Those out of work for six months or more, the nominal beneficiaries of the effort, are only slightly more likely to get a job thanks to the Obama administration than they are to be struck by lightning.

The token character of the effort promoted by Obama in his State of the Union address and then at the White House meeting Friday is demonstrated by the disparity between the vast social need and the miniscule resources pledged by Obama and Corporate America.

There are some 4 million workers who have been out of work for six months or longer, according to official statistics, which do not count millions more who have dropped out of the workforce entirely for lack of any real prospect of getting a decent-paying job.

According to the Fact Sheet distributed by the White House in conjunction with Friday's summit meeting with CEOs, the initiatives backed by Obama include the following:

* The National Fund for Workforce Solutions, to award $2.5 million in grants, to be matched dollar-for-dollar by local communities, for a total of $5 million, or $1.25 for each long-term unemployed worker.

* Skills for Chicagoland's Future, a local venture devised by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and JPMorgan Chase, with a $600,000 grant from the megabank (approximately 15 minutes worth of profits), aiming to provide job placement services for an additional 120 workers in 2014.

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These efforts will provide at most a few hundred jobs for the millions of long-term unemployed. To call such efforts a drop in the bucket would be to exaggerate their significance.

The pathetic scale of these programs is in sharp contrast to the resources of the corporations involved, which include, as the White House noted, "More than 80 of the nation's largest businesses ... including 20 members of the Fortune 50 and over 45 members of the Fortune 200."

These include, in addition to the aforementioned JPMorgan Chase, Walmart and PG&E, such corporate giants as Motorola, eBay, Deloitte, BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, Boeing, Bank of America, Marriott International, McDonald's, News Corp. and Walgreens. Collectively, these banks and corporations dispose of trillions of dollars, from which they offered petty cash to assist the long-term unemployed.

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The federal government is actually doing less than its corporate partners. The principal federal effort announced by Obama at the Friday meeting was billed in the press release as "150 Million for 'Ready to Work' Partnerships to Support Innovative Public-Private Efforts to Help the Long-Term Unemployed Get a Fair Shot." On closer examination, however, this response amounts to exactly nothing, because the Department of Labor is merely diverting "existing resources from the H-1B fund" to support the effort. There is not one additional dime in spending.

The business summit at the White House was the culmination of three days of empty publicity stunts in the wake of the State of the Union address -- which itself is little more than that.

Obama has held pep rallies at factories and workplaces in several states, in most cases to highlight and celebrate the supposed generosity of corporate or small-business employers who have agreed to pay entry-level workers as much as the $10.10 an hour that Obama proposed for the new federal minimum wage.

At a Costco in Lanham, Maryland, Obama hailed the company's founder Jim Sinegal as "a great friend of mine and somebody who I greatly admire." Costco pays entry-level workers more than $10 an hour, above the entry-level wage at competitor Sam's Club, owned by Walmart.

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Patrick Martin writes for the World Socialist Website (, a forum for socialist ideas & analysis & published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).

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